Tag Archives: fake linguistics

It has been said …

We’ve all heard of Uncanny Valley, that virtual realm where the animation is nearly convincing but just slightly off and that slight unreality is enough to unsettle and perturb. However, there is another virtual realm located in a misty valley in cyberspace. Let’s call it the Kingdom of Quotatia. You can get to it by uttering the magic words It has been said.

You see, there is an awful lot of misinformation out there in cyberspace. And it’s not hard to spot bullshit. But with the help of the magic words, you don’t have to bother proving anything or disproving it. All that’s necessary is for someone, somewhere to have said it and bingo, you can quote it. It doesn’t matter if the person who said it was a complete nut-job and fantasist. It doesn’t matter if there is absolutely no evidence for it. If somebody has said it, it automatically becomes A THING. And when it’s A THING you can use it. However dumbass and absurd and ludicrous it is, you can claim it because someone else said it.

Jason Colavito has written a great deal about the way that errors are created and then spread by pseudoscience writers. They quote each other’s mistakes, building vast edifices of trash on misunderstandings and misquotations and downright lies. That’s why so many people spread nonsense like Cassidy’s claims or the rubbish about Dracula being Irish. With the magic power of the words It has been said, you can spread any kind of lying trash you want and you don’t have to worry about the fact that it’s bullshit. Because somebody else said it and you can put the blame – and the responsibility – on them.

How Words Get Borrowed

In this, my first post of 2017, I would like to examine an issue that I have touched on before but never really dealt with properly, the question of how words are passed from language to language.

Cassidy’s methodology was simple. He looked at words and phrases in English, especially slang expressions, and then hit the Irish dictionaries and cobbled together ludicrous phrases which he thought sounded like these English terms. Of course, Cassidy was badly educated and did not speak any Irish.

What really happens when words cross language boundaries in situations like this? (Of course, we need to remember that similar processes were involved in Ireland itself, where the issue was colonialism, not immigration.) Well, basically, a group of speakers of Irish (or any other language) turn up as immigrants. At first, they are unable to communicate with the society around them. Some of them never learn the new language. Others manage to pick up a basic knowledge. As they learn the majority language, they retain grammatical structures and certain words and phrases from their own language. Thus we might hear sentences like this:

“There is whiskey go leor in the jug there.”

“Sure I’m after seeing Lannigan out there, the old amadán!”

“Sure, I’m away to the síbín for a drink.”

Because lots of people in the initial generation of learners use these expressions, they are continually heard and learned and used by the younger generation. Before long, people who speak no Irish are using galore and ommadawn and shebeen in their English.

Note that nearly all of these borrowings are single words and nearly all of them are nouns. There’s a reason for this. It wasn’t enough for a phrase to be used once by one individual. These had to be expressions which were commonly used by that first generation of bilingual English and Irish speakers, by thousands of people in different contexts.

And of course, that’s not what we find in Cassidy’s moronic book. We find that according to Cassidy, Irish speakers supposedly stuck the word án onto lóinte to make something sounding like luncheon (even though the phrase lóinte ána was unknown in Irish until Cassidy invented it), or that sách was used as a noun meaning a well-fed person and that that word always had úr (fresh) stuck on to the end of it. Apparently nobody ever separated the two words. They never said that there was a good sách, or a handy sách, or a stupid sách, or a big sách. No, it was always a fresh sách, so that it would sound like sucker. Yeah, right. You’d need to be a real sucker (which comes from the English suck) to believe that.

Pretty much all of Cassidy’s ‘Irish’ candidates rule themselves out because they are absurd and improbable phrases. Things like n-each as the origin of nag are simply laughable, because nobody is going to pluck a random inflected phrase out of conversation and use it. (Plus the fact that each ceased to be the usual Irish word for a horse hundreds of years ago!)

The question of pronunciation is another tricky issue. People learn English and throw the odd word of Irish into their conversation. The next generation grow up hearing these words and use them themselves. They pronounce them the way the older generation did. There would be no reason for them to mispronounce uath-anchor as wanker or sciord ar dólámh as skedaddle or éamh call as heckle or gus óil as guzzle, because there’s an unbroken chain of transmission and there is no stage at which this kind of mangling could take place. (And please note that none of these Irish phrases exists anyway. They were all invented by Cassidy, along with nearly all of the Irish in How The Irish Invented Slang.)

The bizarre changes of meaning posited by Cassidy are also problematic. Why would shanty come from seanteach if a native Irish speaker would call their hut a bothán or a cró or a cábán? Why would loingseoir, a word meaning a sailor, become a word for a landlubber who works on the dock? Why would a native speaker of Irish say “Sure, I hate living here in dis is lom é?” if they wouldn’t say “Dhera, is fuath liom bheith I mo chónaí san is lom é seo?” The answer is, of course, they wouldn’t and they didn’t.

In other words, this isn’t the way that words cross from language to language. Cassidy’s ‘research’ was entirely fake, like the man who invented it. I don’t know why people like Michael Patrick MacDonald or Peter Quinn or Joe Lee still support this dishonest garbage. It seems a very high price to pay for friendship but then I suppose it’s a sad fact that some people really are that desperate for friends – desperate enough to betray everything they claim to believe in for the sake of a worthless fraud like Daniel Cassidy.

Litir Oscailte Chuig Rónán

Bhí mé ag éisteacht le clár Rónáin inniu. Is breá liom Rónán Mac Aodha Bhuí. Bíonn scoth na Gaeilge le cluinstin ar a chlár agus níorbh aon eisceacht clár an lae inniu. Bhí roinnt daoine ina chuideachta agus is é saibhreas na Gaeilge a bhí i gcaibidil acu. Bhí go maith agus ní raibh go holc, go dtí gur luaigh Rónán an focal snagcheol. Chuir duine éigin téacs isteach. Cad chuige ar úsáid Rónán an focal snagcheol? Ní focal Béarla é jazz, dar leis an téacsóir. Is focal Gaeilge é, mar dhea, a thig ón fhocal deas. Tháinig téacs eile. Ní hea, arsa an ceann sin. Is ón fhocal teas a thig sé. Aidhe, agus fuair an Béarla rock ón Ghaeilge fosta, mar bíonn sé de nós ag lucht an rac-cheoil na seomraí san óstán a raiceáil i ndiaidh dóibh ceolchoirm a dhéanamh…

Agus ansin, luaigh Rónán leabhar Cassidy. Nár scríobh duine éigin leabhar i Meiriceá faoi na focail Ghaeilge atá le fáil sa Bhéarla?

Cuireann rudaí mar sin díomá orm. Tá go leor fianaise sa bhlag seo agus in áiteanna eile ar an idirlíon nach raibh sa Chasaideach ach leathghealt, lán-amadán agus caimiléir cruthanta. Ní raibh eolas dá laghad aige ar an Ghaeilge, agus cé gur Ollamh a bhí ann go hoifigiúil, ní raibh oiread agus céim aige. Is mór an náire nach mbíonn lucht na Gaeilge ag magadh go neamhthrócaireach faoin bhocamadán sin a luaithe agus a luaitear a ainm nó a theoiricí bómánta i lúb cuideachta.

Ní lia saoi ná tuairim maidir le bunús an fhocail sin jazz, agus ní fiú na teoiricí bómánta sin a nascann an focal leis an Ghaeilge a chur ar an liosta, dar leis na saineolaithe, gan trácht ar iad a chur ag barr an liosta! Más mian le daoine a chreidmheáil gur ón fhocal teas a tháinig jazz, bíodh acu, ach is bréag lom a rá nach bhfuil míniú ar bith eile ann nó go bhfuil tuairimí bómánta Cassidy chun tosaigh ar na barúlacha eile.

A Rónáin, a chara, is maith liom do chlár agus tréaslaím do shaothar leat. Léiríonn do chlár nach bhfuil an Ghaeilge marbh ná baol air, agus nach gá do lucht na Gaeilge sodar i ndiaidh na nGall agus scáil na teanga s’againne a fheiceáil i ngach aon chrístín agus drochfhocal atá le cluinstin san Oileán Úr, go díreach mar a bhíonn lucht na cráifeachta ar lorg aghaidh Íosa i ngach aon phancóg agus giota arán rósta dá bhfeiceann siad. Ní linne an snagcheol, agus ní le Cassidy agus a lucht leanúna an teanga s’againne ach an oiread.

Bailiwick

Another ludicrous claim of Cassidy’s is that the word bailiwick (meaning someone’s sphere of influence or control) is from the Irish baile aíoch. This is clearly rubbish for two reasons.

Firstly, the phrase baile aíoch is completely unattested in Irish outside of Cassidy’s fantasy version of the language, although the two elements which Cassidy put together to make this phrase, baile and aíoch, do exist. Baile means home or town, while aíoch means hospitable, and is related to the word aoi, meaning guest. So this phrase might just mean “hospitable home”, though the word aíoch is not very common.

So what’s wrong with this as the origin of bailiwick? Let’s imagine a group of Irish-speaking gangsters discussing their activities in New York in the 19th century. Are they really going to refer to their ceantar (area) or ríocht (kingdom) or fearann (domain) or talamh (ground, land) as mo bhaile aíoch? I can’t see it. It is an unlikely enough phrase anyway, but if I did hear it, I would think of a guest house, or their own house, or even the old home back in the Old Country, not an area which is under someone’s control in a city.

It is also highly unlikely that the word aíoch (pronounced ee-okh or ee-oh] would become wick in English.

And in any case, if Cassidy had done some basic research (something he was obviously too lazy or stupid to do) he would have realised that bailiwick has been in English for nearly six hundred years. It means the area of influence of a bailiff. The most famous bailiwick is probably the Bailiwick of Jersey in the Channel Islands, which obviously has no connection with the hospitable homes of Irish wise-guys.

How Not To Think Like An Idiot

Thinking rationally is important. It is also something which can be taught. While some people are more logical and rational than others by nature, just as some people have a better ear for music or are more athletic than others, this doesn’t mean that people can’t learn to recognise duff arguments and illogical thinking. Over the centuries, philosophers have developed a host of terms for foolish and unreasonable arguments. It is interesting to look back over the arguments used by the supporters of the late Daniel Cassidy and identify some of the logical fallacies and crap thinking which motivate them.

Straw man arguments. Essentially, a straw man argument is an argument which purports to challenge the arguments of the other side but really misrepresents their position, giving a version which is much easier to knock down. For example, Cassidy’s sheeple tend to argue that the Irish speakers who challenge Cassidy are doing so because we don’t believe the Irish language would have been rich enough to give expressions to English. (This is also an example of another fallacy, the false dichotomy. Cassidy’s supporters pretend there are two choices: a) Irish was rich and expressive and gave many words to English, and b) Irish was a worthless language which English ignored because there was nothing worth having in it. In reality, of course, there are other choices, such as my position, that Irish is and was a beautiful and expressive language, but because of circumstances which have nothing to do with its intrinsic merit, it had little or no influence on English.) Another straw man argument, used by certain silly and ignorant people who support Cassidy, is that people like me don’t accept the Irish influence on English because we don’t believe there were Irish speakers in America. In reality, we know that generations of people have left Gaeltacht areas in the west of Ireland and settled in the States but this fact has nothing at all to do with the ridiculous phoney Irish given in Cassidy’s book.

The genetic fallacy. This is where you argue not on the basis of the merits of the case presented, but on the basis that people like that can’t be right. In other words, if the people at the Oxford English Dictionary make a claim about a word, that claim is intrinsically untrustworthy because Oxford is a bastion of Anglophile privilege. This is a version of the ad hominem fallacy, where the opinion that Mr X is a dick is used to argue that Mr X’s opinions must also be stupid. Incidentally, many of Cassidy’s supporters have misused the ad hominem label in criticising myself and other opponents of Cassidy. An ad hominem argument is one which uses criticism of the person instead of an argument. Saying that Cassidy was a liar because all his ‘research’ was made up and he didn’t speak any Irish is not an ad hominem argument.

Appeal to (Inappropriate) Authority. Cassidy loved nothing better than to reel off a list of American and Irish professors and writers who had endorsed his work. In most cases these people were not language specialists and knew as little as he did about slang and Irish. In most cases, they were also close personal friends of his, which means that their support is worth precisely nothing.

Subjectivism (Also known as the Fallacy of the Irrefutable Hypothesis.) Really stupid people rarely get much further than these kind of arguments. I want there to be lots of words of Irish origin in English, therefore there must be lots of words of Irish origin in English. Or I thought Daniel Cassidy was a genius, therefore Daniel Cassidy must have been a genius. Yeah right … And Donald Trump is going to solve all your problems too …

The non sequitur. This literally means “it does not follow” in Latin. Apparently, some of Cassidy’s followers believe that English must be full of Irish loan words because Irish people talk a lot. I don’t know whether this is really true or not. I’ve never seen any research into it. I can tell you for nothing that the Irish don’t respect people who blether a lot. Irish people respect those who can talk well, who are witty, who know what they are talking about. Bullshitters and loudmouths like Cassidy are no more respected in Irish culture than in any other. And even if it were true that the Irish are incredibly loquacious, it would not automatically mean that English must contain lots of borrowings from Irish. You can say it as often as you like, but it won’t make it any truer. (That’s another fallacy, argument from repetition.)

The Anecdotal Fallacy. This seems to be what is going on here, where Sean Sweeney (God love his wit, what a clown!) mentions the fact that his Irish-speaking father used some of the “unknown” words given by Cassidy.

Perhaps Cassidy overreached on some, but the fact remains most of the Anglophilic dictionaries list the etymology of words he addresses as “unknown”, an amazing deficit, despite their slew of researchers and experts to trace the origins. Talking about “shit”. I’ve seen these same dictionaries deem as “unknown” words that I heard my Irish-speaking father use when I was a child. Not saying it applies to you, but “No Irish Need Apply” is still alive and well in some modern linguistic circles.

Anyone with any capacity for rational thought would immediately realise that this is completely irrelevant. These words were presumably spoken by his father in English and I see no evidence that Sweeney ever learned Irish. So were all the words used by his father in English derived from Irish? Did he ever say words like pizza, toreador, blitzkrieg, karate, kummerbund, bagel? Are these all from Irish too? Or did he give some special sign to show that the word in question came from Irish? Perhaps he went all dreamy and gazed off into the middle distance. Ah, lollygag, Seany boy. Dat’s one from da ouuuuuuld language … Yeah, right! What a clown!

The ‘real criminals’ fallacy. I can’t find an established name for this so I’ve made one up. Picture the scene: it’s a couple of days before Christmas and a drunken businessman is standing beside his BMW being breathalysed by a policeman. “Why don’t choo go and cash shome real criminalsh?” says the drunk driver. In other words, according to these people, there is a hierarchy of things to be done in the world, but protecting the Irish language from a creep like Cassidy should be way down the list. “Yes, maybe our friend Danny was a liar and a cheat. But is this really so important? What about world poverty, radicalisation, global warming, the refugee crisis? Why don’t you blog about them?” The answer is, of course, that the Irish language matters to me. And as for the other subjects, I don’t know much about solving world poverty or the war in Syria. So, I choose to blog about a subject where I have a specialist knowledge. Cassidy may not have been the worst criminal in history but he was definitely a criminal and he and his scummy followers deserve to be challenged and shamed.

 

 

Niall O’Dowd Has Sold Out!

On this blog, I have frequently criticised an awful tabloid website called IrishCentral. This website has repeatedly republished a lying and badly-written article by Brendan Patrick Keane, purporting to be an opinion piece. In reality, all it does is regurgitate a number of Daniel Cassidy’s insane theories about the Irish origins of slang. As has often been said, people are entitled to their own opinions, not to their own facts. Almost nothing in this article is factually correct. I have also criticised IrishCentral’s founder, Niall O’Dowd, who is closely associated with many of Cassidy’s cronies.

However, over the last couple of days, I have discovered that Niall O’Dowd has sold IrishCentral for €2.7 million to a consortium of Irish media investors. Surprise, surprise, one of this consortium is a figure I have also mentioned on this blog – Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Sinn Féin minister for finance in Stormont.

This is a perfect opportunity for Ó Muilleoir to act according to his principles. He can put a word in with the editors of IrishCentral and tell them to stop republishing these lies about the Irish language. Even better, perhaps he could ask them to write an article which actually tells the truth about Daniel Cassidy and his dishonesty and fraud. Surely IrishCentral and Ó Muilleoir and the other Cassidy Cronies have done enough damage to our language and culture. It’s time to set the record straight and tell it like it is. It’s time for Ó Muilleoir to stop supporting these scumbags and start defending the Irish language from this nonsense.

It’s a simple choice. I know he’s a busy man, but If he has the time to tweet pictures of cows on the Lagan towpath and follow the activities of other Cassidy Cronies like Michael Patrick MacDonald, he has time to do this.

The top ten Cassidy lies

There are still many people out there who are determined to carry on spreading the same old lies about Daniel Cassidy. Why do they do it? Some of them are obviously friends of Cassidy’s who want to continue believing in the myth rather than looking the facts squarely in the face. Others are just trolls, fantasists and compulsive liars, just like their hero Cassidy. Still others are stupid and naive people who have been conned into thinking that support for Cassidy is support for Irish Republicanism or socialism, while criticism of Cassidy is criticism of those causes. Anyway, to help balanced and rational people who find their way to this site to understand what a liar Cassidy was, here is a list of the top ten lies from and about Daniel Cassidy. Enjoy!

 

Cassidy was qualified

Cassidy went to Cornell but flunked out in 1965. While there is no direct evidence of Cassidy claiming that he was a graduate, there is plenty of indirect evidence. The most important piece of indirect evidence is that Cassidy worked as a professor in New College of California (and apparently he lectured in San Francisco State before that). Who would give someone a lecturer’s job if they didn’t have any degrees at all? It seems clear that there was some kind of fraud here. Until someone provides evidence to the contrary or explains how Cassidy became an academic with only a high school diploma, then the logical assumption has to be that he committed a crime in accepting a job as a lecturer, probably stealing in excess of half a million dollars from the American education system by using non-existent qualifications to gain employment.

 

The Rule of Tír

According to Cassidy, this is a rule of Irish pronunciation. In fact, it’s just another piece of nonsense invented by Cassidy. Cassidy made use of a forum for Irish learners to find out how to pronounce certain sounds. He was too stupid to understand the linguistic explanations given. Eventually, one poster said:

BOTTOM LINE?!  How do I say “tír?”

Cheer

Tear

jeer.

I’ll bet every native speaker would understand me no matter which I said.

In other words, this poster was saying, it doesn’t matter what you say really because people will understand you, NOT that native speakers use these forms interchangeably. But in the insane world of Cassidy’s head, this casual online comment was transformed into The Rule of Tír, a fictional ‘rule’ which states that they ARE interchangeable!

 

Cassidy’s grandparents

Cassidy, using his sockpuppet identity of Medbh, claimed that his grandparents spoke Donegal Irish. He gives no further details. Grandparents (plural) means that at least two of his grandparents were supposedly speakers of Donegal Irish. According to a family tree on Ancestry.co.uk, only one of Cassidy’s grandparents was born in Ireland. She was from Monaghan, so she didn’t speak Donegal Irish. The rest were born in New York and Toronto. Some of his forebears had Munster names like O’Brien and Garrity. There seems to be no certainty about where the Cassidys themselves came from, but it’s primarily a Fermanagh name, not a Donegal name.

 

Cassidy and Dallas

Cassidy claimed that he was in the newsroom of the New York Times as a rookie journalist the day JFK was shot in 1963. Yet Cassidy stated elsewhere that he was still in Cornell until 1965 and started as a rookie journalist in the NYT after he was booted out of Cornell university with no degree.

 

Cassidy was award-winning

According to the sources on line, Cassidy won an award for poetry at Cornell, before they kicked him out. In his adult life, he only won one award. He received an American Book Award for his ridiculous dreckfest How The Irish Invented Slang in 2007. We don’t know who the judges were (they don’t tell us in any detail how the judging is done), but I find it interesting that at least four of his friends are currently on the board of the Before Columbus Foundation ( based in Oakland, CA), which hands out the awards (David Meltzer, Ishmael Reed, T.J. English and Jack Foley). Cassidy was also supposed to have received a nomination (which isn’t an award) for an Emmy for his documentary Civil Rights and Civil Wrongs, but there is no independent confirmation of this anywhere on line.

 

Cassidy’s work was endorsed by many Irish speakers

This is nonsense. Some Irish speakers did support Cassidy, but we have to remember several points here. Almost all those who provided support for Cassidy (Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Ciarán Ó Pronntaigh, Joe Lee) knew him. We have no information about the circumstances in which they gave their support. Had they read the book or were they asked to provide a favourable review ‘blind,’ without seeing the finished article? The reaction to Cassidy’s work among genuine Irish speakers who didn’t know him has been very hostile, and many people who have only a nodding acquaintance with the language have praised his work while pretending to be better informed about Irish than they really are – just like Cassidy himself.

 

Cassidy’s work was ‘peer-reviewed’

This is claimed by his sockpuppet identity Méabh, and repeated by some of his more enthusiastic and less intelligent supporters. Cassidy’s work was not peer-reviewed (the closest it got to that was when it was rejected by an academic reviewer when Cassidy tried to get it published by the University of Limerick). It was given reviews in newspapers, which is not the same thing at all. In fact, if a body of experts on linguistics, slang and the Irish language were assembled together to assess the merit of Cassidy’s work, not only would they fall about laughing, they would not be peers of Cassidy’s. A peer means an equal. Cassidy knew absolutely nothing about any of these subjects. Cassidy’s peers were other fake Irish loudmouths with no qualifications and no idea about their ancestral culture.

 

Cassidy was ‘passionate’ about the Irish language

As one Irish blogger who had listened to too many fools in New York said: Cassidy argued in his book that many American English slang words were derived from Gaelic, a claim with which some disagreed. But if they thought his argument thin, they must never have experienced his vast passion for the Irish language. Let’s just examine this one closely. Cassidy lived his whole life in cities like New York and San Francisco. There were Irish organisations in both these cities giving classes in the language. Linguaphone used to offer a course in Irish, starting in 1957, which would have been available anywhere. Yet somehow, Cassidy managed to avoid learning any Irish – or indeed buying any books, dictionaries or tape courses in or on the language – until 2001, when he was left an Irish dictionary in someone’s will. Some passion! And he never succeeded in learning any Irish. He had no idea about the pronunciation, the grammar, or the usage. Cassidy’s interest in Irish was shallow dilettantism, not passion.

 

A working-class hero is something to be ..

Cassidy really played up the working-class hero thing, cultivating a broad Brooklyn accent and talking about his past as a merchant marine (though it’s hard to work out when, or indeed, if, he was ever a merchant marine). His sister Susan commented that: Cockbum also said that Danny grew up in the “slums of Brooklyn”. we grew up on Long Island in the ’50’s – it was all country … And while his family may have been ordinary folk, they don’t seem to have been that poor. His father ran an Irish bar. Cassidy won a scholarship to the New York Military Academy, alma mater of Donald Trump and Stephen Sondheim, and then went on to Cornell. Not exactly Les Misérables

 

“…this pioneering book proves that US slang has its strongest wellsprings in nineteenth-century Irish America.”

I started writing this blog before I knew anything about Daniel Cassidy. The more I learned, the more I despised him. All I knew at the start was that the book was nonsense and that a number of high-profile buffoons were trying to pretend that it isn’t nonsense, for reasons best known to themselves. The fact is, this book is stuffed with lies. You can find lies on every page. And we’re talking whoppers here, not minnows. Cassidy invented the overwhelming majority of the Irish ‘phrases’ in this book. They have never existed. Since I began this project, none of the buffoons who have lauded this idiotic garbage has tried to defend Cassidy. We have had the occasional idiot or troll calling in to make sweeping generalisations about how the Irish talk a lot so American English must be full of Irish. But none of them has answered the challenge which I have repeatedly given them – to provide evidence that Cassidy’s phrases had any existence independent of his crazy echo-chamber of a head. Of course, none of them ever will do, because there is no evidence. Cassidy made it all up as he went along.